LES HERBIERS, France (VN) — Everything was going fine for Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) in his Tour de France debut until the closing kilometers of Saturday’s wild and wooly stage to Mont-des-Aloutetes.
A rider fell in the middle of the pack with about 9km to go, completely blocking the road and creating chaos in the bunch. Caught up behind the crash were Danielson and teammates Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal.
Danielson, who is finally making his Tour debut after several years knocking around the peloton, said he’s ready for the three-week challenge of the Tour.
“It’s a difficult position to be in because I am in the form of my life,” Danielson said. “There are just a lot of unknowns. It was pretty calm most of the day and then there was that crash. Riders went down and there was nothing we could do. It’s disappointing, but we’re going to take this Tour day by day. I just want to try to get through this first week and then go for it in the mountains.”
Watch out for Basso; saving Sagan
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) survived the mayhem Saturday to finish with the favorites at six seconds back. A two-time Tour podium finisher, Basso rolls into this year’s Tour as one of the outsiders for victory. Team officials say Basso is in even better shape than when he won last year’s Giro d’Italia.
“Ivan is feeling no pressure. The media is not paying attention to him, which is also fine with him,” said Liquigas team spokesman Paolo Barbieri. “He is very strong and very motivated. Everyone is talking about (Alberto) Contador and (Andy) Schleck, but Ivan will be ready for the final week. We believe a podium is possible.”
Liquigas-Cannondale brought a team stacked with riders dedicated to helping Basso. The squad will likely produce a solid TTT on Tuesday and then have riders who can help him survive the first half of the Tour. With the likes of Sylvester Szymd to help him in the mountains, Basso is hoping to be guns a-blazing in time for the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez in the final week.
The team left behind some other riders, including Ted King and Timmy Duggan. Both are expected to race the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado in August or perhaps the Vuelta a Espana. Management also believed it was too early to bring budding superstar Peter Sagan to the Tour.
“We know that he is a phenomenon, but we want to protect him,” Barbieri said. “The first week of the Tour would have been for good for him, but we like to have our riders to start with the idea of finishing a grand tour.
“And you never know how young riders react to the pressure of being thrown into the Tour. Maybe it’s too much for their head, especially if he cannot manage to win a stage and everyone starts asking questions. We know he is a big talent. We did the same thing with Kreuziger and Nibali, to give them space to grow. He’s only 21. He will go to the Vuelta and then race the worlds.”
Ol’ Moncoot on last Tour; Voigt not sure
David Moncoutie (Cofidis), who has won two Tour stages during his career, has confirmed this will be his final Tour de France. The 36-year-old is likely to return to the Vuelta this fall to try win a fourth straight climber’s jersey.
Jens Voigt, 39, hinted this could well be his final Tour as well. “I don’t know if I will be back next year. This year I will work hard to see one of the Schleck brothers win the Tour in Paris,” Voigt said. “That would be a nice way to finish out anyone’s career in the Tour.”
Van de Walle leads injury list
Jurgen Van de Walle (Omega Pharma-Lotto) hit the deck when he was trying to advise other riders of dangers coming into Sables-d’Olonne. The Belgian was pointing out a traffic island to riders trailing in his wake when he slipped his front wheel on white painted stripes at a pedestrian crossing and crashed hard. His helmet saved him from serious injury.
Van de Walle leads the injury list in a crash-plagued first stage at the 2011 Tour:
Passage du Gois: André Greipel (Omega-Lotto), cuts and scrapes to left elbow.
25km and 65km: Andrey Amador (Movistar), cuts and abrasions to left knee, heel; transferred to hospital in La Roche-sur-Yon for X-rays.
40km: Benat Intxuasti (Movistar), trauma to right elbow, transferred to hospital in La Roche-sur-Yon for X-rays.
65km: Van de Walle, cuts to right knee, shoulder; David Arroyo (Movistar), cuts to right elbow; Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), cuts to back.
132km: Linus Gerdemann (Leopard-Trek), cuts, scrapes to right elbow; Vincent Jerome (Europcar), cuts to right elbow.
179km: Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad), contusion, cuts to right elbow; Vincent Jerome (Europcar), cuts to left knee, stitches; Arnaud Coyot (Saur-Sojasun), cuts to knee; Maxim Iglinkskiy (Astana), cuts to knee.
Other: Nicolas Roche (Ag2r), pain to left wrist; Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), digestive problems; Mickael Delage (FDJ), nose bleeding.
Carlos Barredo (Rabobank), 50 CHF fine, 20-second time penalty for following behind team car too long.
Andrey Amador (Movistar), 50 CFH fine, 5-point penalty, 10-second penalty for following behind team car too long.
Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), 50CHF fine for not respecting decision of the commissaires.
Dimitry Konyshev (Katusha), 100CHF for same as above.
Decision: “Riders caught up in the crash with less than 3km to go are credited with the time of the group where they found themselves.”
Stage-winner: Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) kicked to his first career Tour de France stage victory in Ardennes-classics style.
Yellow jersey: Gilbert claims his first yellow jersey of his career.
Green jersey: Gilbert earned enough finish-line points to claim the points jersey as well (Cadel Evans will wear the green jersey Sunday).
Best climber: Gilbert enjoyed plenty of podium time with the KoM jersey as well (Thor Hushovd will wear the polka-dot jersey Sunday).
Best young rider: Geraint Thomas (Sky), who wore the white jersey in the first week last year, was back on the podium with sixth in the stage.
Best team: Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Most combative rider: Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar).
Despite scores of crashes, all 198 starters made it to the finish line.